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Nature blog - Jenny Bourne

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Marbled whites, cinnabars, buddleja, front bed and Slinky Malinky!

Date posted: Wednesday 5th July 2017

Marbled whites, cinnabars, buddleja, front bed and Slinky Malinky!

A marbled white sighting wsa reported around the SE site plots last Sunday – a few days later there one was, perched on a scabious, ‘Butterfly Blue Beauty’ in our new(ish) flower bed by the entrance gates! The next day I found one on the scabious at the back of my plot! Very exciting, as they haven’t apparently been around the site previously.

They lay their eggs on grasses, and a few weeks ago I saw these on my neighbour’s plot – marbled white eggs?:

Categorised as ‘browns’ rather than white butterflies, Melanargia galathea ‘is a distinctive and attractive black and white butterfly, unlikely to be mistaken for any other species. In July it flies in areas of unimproved grassland and can occur in large numbers on southern downland. It shows a marked preference for purple flowers such as Wild Marjoram, Field Scabious, thistles, and knapweeds. Adults may be found roosting halfway down tall grass stems. Found in flowery grassland but may stray into gardens. This species is widespread in southern Britain and has expanded northwards and eastwards over the last twenty years, despite some losses within its range, with outlying populations in Yorkshire and SW Wales.Red Fescue (Festuca rubra) is thought to be essential in the diet of larvae but Sheep’s-fescue (F. ovina), Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus), and Tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum) are also eaten. It is thought that several other grasses may be used, but the full range is not known.’ (Butterfly Conservation). I found one caught under my soft fruit enviromesh yesterday – they’re everywhere!

The cinnabar moth caterpillars grow apace – now quite hairy as they munch through the ragwort and these hairs are an irritant, so I’m keeping well clear. The little lad on the plot behind found one on a groundsel plant – ‘Here’s one of those orange things!’ so I’ll have to warn the family to keep clear and not pick it up! They had another visitor on their plot, very interested in whatever fertilizer they’d used, maybe bone, blood based:

The buddleja bushes are attracting a variety of butterflies and other visitors. My plot neighbour, Flora across the path had a hawkmoth on her buddleja, but, of course I missed it! There’s a large shrub by the compost toilet and it’s an insect food bar, though some butterflies are looking a bit less than sartorial these days:

This morning, very early to avoid the heat of the day, I was planting up more pollinator friendly flowers in our front entrance bed when a visitor turned up, completely disinterested in me and on the hunt. It has to be Slinky Malinky!